Number of employment tribunal claims down, but backlog continues to grow

The number of employment tribunal claims fell to 186,300 during 2011-12, figures from the Ministry of Justice show.

However, the fall of 15 per cent in the year is coupled by the revelation that there are now a record number of outstanding cases which are blocking up the tribunal system.

According to the Annual Tribunal Statistics report, many of the claims being processed were likely to have been as a result of the current economic climate.

The majority of cases were for unfair dismissal, breach of contract and redundancy - accounting for nearly a third of all cases (31 per cent). Working time regulations made up 29 per cent of claims, the majority of which were made by airline staff, followed by 16 per cent for unauthorised deductions to wages.

The fall in claims to 186,300 occurred in both single and multiple claims of two per cent and 19 per cent respectively. Multiple claims are where two or more people bring cases against a single employer, or are claiming under very similar circumstances, and are processed together. Despite the drop, the number remains 23 per cent higher than it was in 2008-9 at the start of the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the number of outstanding cases rose by more than 12 per cent over the year to 540,800, a record number since comparable data began.

According to the report, one in four tribunal cases take more than three years to resolve, prompting commentators to label the tribunal system as 'overstretched'.

Following last year's Beecroft report into employment red tape, the Government is currently consulting on whether the time it takes to consult staff on mass job losses should be reduced from 90 days to either 30 or 45 days.

The Government has also recently announced plans to extend legislation regarding 'settlement agreements' which would make it easier for firms to dismiss under-performing workers.

It is hoped the proposed measures will minimise the number of workplace disputes being taken to tribunals and ease pressure on the system.